The busiest chef in Las Vegas seems intent on building a restaurant empire in Las Vegas and beyond. One day, Marc Marrone is in Salt Lake City checking out how HallPass, a new food hall where he is the chef-partner, is doing. The next, he’s posting images of birria tacos he might add to the menu, teriyaki bowls he might drop at Graffiti Bao, or a pumpkin chocolate bread pudding that just arrived at Locale Italian Kitchen. Next he’s putting together dishes for Delivering with Dignity, a program that will take perishable excess food from businesses and restaurants and deliver meals to vulnerable low-income families who may want to avoid visiting a food bank or the grocery store.
Since departing Tao Group as the corporate executive chef in 2018, Marrone partnered with Todd Lunger and opened Graffiti Bao with its with Southeast Asian street food, came on board at breakfast sandwich specialist Egg Sammie and Locale Italian Kitchen, opened Mexican and pan-Asian venues at T-Mobile Arena and Allegiant Stadium, and opened a ghost kitchen with pizzas and sandwiches at Gemma Gemma’s Square Pies.
Now Lunger and Marrone merged Graffiti Hospitality with Reed Allen Slobusky and SkinnyFats along with Chris Jacobs and Beer Zombies Draft Room & Bottle Shop to form a super hospitality group ready to expand their restaurants nationwide. Not only did they already open a food hall in Salt Lake City, but have plans to open a brewery in Las Vegas and revamp the menus at some of their outlets.
“We’re both very similar growth tracks with the same goals in mind to take our brands nationwide,” Marrone says.
Locally, that means getting a Graffiti Bao and Gemma Gemma’s in each corner of the city since the response from diners has been positive. “You’re not going to drive 45 minutes across town to go get something consistently, so I want to be able to put those out kind of across town,” Marrone says. “It’s still so important right now to make sure that people get the same experience and don’t feel obligated to sit somewhere. We obviously do everything possible to ensure a safe environment.”
A Food Hall That’s a Test Kitchen
HallPass, the first food hall Salt Lake City from Slobusky, brings Graffiti Bao and SkinnyFats along with newcomers such as Hibachican and Waffadopolis, both of which could come to Las Vegas, and CodSpeed with fried fish dishes and Colossal Lobster with lobster rolls, oysters, crab, and more. HallPass is really almost like a beta kitchen to test new dishes for all the restaurants. “It’s a lot easier to roll it out at one SkinnyFats in Salt Lake City instead of all six in Vegas,” Marrone says.
Hibachican features a dual hibachi grill anchoring the restaurant, serving Japanese teppanyaki, tartare, and small plates alongside Mexican tacos, aguachiles, and house-made chips, guacamole, and assorted salsas, bringing a meld of Japanese and Mexican cuisines found in al pastor yakitori and garlic soy teppanyaki tacos. Think of it as a live-action counter-service restaurant.
Graffiti Bao opens next door with a more noodle-forward menu than Marrone has in Las Vegas. He’s also already testing dishes such as that teriyaki bowl that he will roll out locally.
Next door, Waffadopolis brings a fun dessert shop with house-made waffle cones with flavors such as black sesame; unicorn cakes; a build-your-own-ice cream bar; and more.
The food hall also includes SkinnyFats, the Vegas restaurant with indulgent comfort food on one side of the menu and healthy fare on the other, along with Beer Zombies Draft Room & Beer Garden.
Beer Zombies Brewery on the Way
The new partners plan to open Beer Zombies Brewiing Co. on Dean Martin Drive next spring next to the original SkinnyFats. The new brewery plans to have a recording studio in the middle of it that doubles as a tasting room. “We kind of want to tie the whole thing together — food, art, music, and bring it all together,” Marrone says.
Beer Zombies taproom already has two tap rooms in Vegas at Dean Martin and Warm Springs and Durango Boulevard, and one in Salt Lake City, with a third Vegas tap room opening soon at Downtown Summerlin, the first to roll out food from Marrone.
Marrone calls it “a little more approachable to the Strip and more centrally located” to draw on tourists. “We’re in close proximity to Raider stadium being down there so hopefully we’ll be able to capture some of that audience to get people excited before or after the game who feel like celebrating.”
Beer Zombies says it features Nevada’s only 100 percent independent craft beer program with a rotating menu of hard-to-find brews, including Imprint Beer Co. from Hatfield, Pennsylvania, and Beer Zombies Brewing Co.; Surf Zombie, a tiki cocktail-inspired tropical beer that will be on draft, as well as in cans; an a double beer release with Burley Oak out of Berlin, Maryland, and Beer Zombies Brewing Co., which includes J.R.E.A.M. Rule 1, a raspberry, marshmallow cobbler inspired fruited sour, and J.R.E.A.M. Rule 2, a double tap, a blue coconut snowball inspired fruited sour.
Marrone’s new menu at Beer Zombies at the new Downtown Summerlin includes Gemma Gemma zombie squares topped with zombiefest beer cheese, roni cups, and crushed tomatoes; Gemma Gemma signature “upside down” square; beer cheese and zombie pretzels; everything spiced beer bao-brats, a riff on “pigs in a blanket,” with bao dough and beer brats; pickle flights with rotating seasonal pickles; super green artichoke dip with crab and pretzel pita; seasonal salads; and Zombie devils food cake pops.
“Reed and Todd are the two people who are ideal for me to partner with in a way that they just kind of understand that I don’t really like to sit still,” Marrone says. “Reed is really on the same page with innovative design and open to conversations on how we push the limit whether it’s a cuisine, whether it’s the decor, or whether it’s the centerpiece for a restaurant.”